Episode 22 – Decades of Death and Plagues

— And believe me, every citizen of Rome had a personal explanation of why the gods abandoned Rome.

The decades that followed. Thousands died, and thousands more wished they could die.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 22 — Decades of Death and Plagues.

When we talked about the life and death of Lucius Quinctius Cinncinatus, we saw a time when Rome was standing at the gates of one its greatest and most challenging centuries, even though Rome couldn’t know it.

And Rome did not know that for a good reason, because things were not going well in Rome.

And when I say “things” I mean the following five aspects:

ONE – from the south of Italy, commercial caravans were showing up with less and less frequency, and the ones that did, were not bringing good news to Rome.

A new tribe — well, new in our podcast, and relatively new to the ears of common Romans, began to cause troubles in what we today know as the Italian Campania.

I’m talking about the Samnites — the tribes from the hills.

Campania spread all the way to the south of our well known Latium, and went all the way to the Apennine Mountains in the east. To the south it went to the bay of what we know as Naples, next to the famous volcano, Mount Vesuvius.

Among those bad news, as we will see, was the fall of a city called Capua, which fell after a long, long siege, set by the Samnites.

But we’re not there yet, so let’s go to the next point.

TWO – The climate has begun to decline for reasons that the Romans had no way of understanding. Today we know this as a wave of climatic variation throughout Western Europe, which stretched to the center of the Mediterranean Sea.

Although scientists today have a very well-defined name for this brief period of temperature drops, in ancient times this was interpreted as a bad omen from the gods, who had surely put themselves against Rome itself.

And believe me, every citizen of Rome had a personal explanation of why the gods abandoned Rome.

[…]

Popular belief was that if they slept one night inside the temple, they would get a dream, which would give them an interpretation of what they had to do, in order to cure themselves of whatever disease they had.

But, if they had no dream during that first night, patients used to stay up to three consecutive nights in the temple, after which, the priests generally told them to go home, because obviously the gods did not want to communicate with them, and that meant that even the gods wanted them dead.

FIVE – While many bibliographic sources only cite the year 441 BC as a year of famine in Rome, these same sources do admit that many other hunger waves followed.

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Episode 20 – Lucius Quinctius Cinncinatus

— His symbols were the plow and the toga, instead of the sword and the fasces.

The life of the man who, when elected Dictator of Rome, decided to give that power back to the Senate, after just 16 days. Why? Simply because he finished the task he was given to do. And then, he went to plant lettuce in the outskirts of Rome.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 20 – Lucius Quinctius Cinncinatus.

— “Marcia! When father told you what happened to your mom, did he tell you what a certain Appius Claudius did? “

— “You mean, To Mom?”

— “No, not to mom. He didn’t do anything to mom, personally. I mean, what he did in general, in Rome. “

Marcia and Aunt Julia stayed up late that night, something very unusual in ancient Rome, where people — especially Plebeians, went to sleep right after sunset, and rose way before sunrise.

Aunt Julia told her the story of the wicked Decemvirs, those ten men elected by the Senate, and how they schemed together to stay in power, and not to return that power to the Senate of Rome. They didn’t care they swore an oath for one, and only one year.

Actually, truth be told, they DID need two years for the Twelve Tables to be written and polished, because every single bit of these laws was analyzed by the Patricians, especially the old Patricians, who used to gather in forums and discuss piece of law by piece of law.

[…]

Between the two dictatorships combined, he did not rule Rome for a single month.

His example inspired the name of the American city of Cincinnati, in the state of Ohio.

That name was given in honor of the Society of the “Cinncinatus,” which honored George Washington.

Washington was considered to be a true “Cinncinatus” by this society, back in the days of the American Revolution.

His symbols were the plow and the toga, instead of the sword and the fasces.

Even though he was incredibly good at using the sword, and incredibly righteous at the use of the fasces.

[…]

Episode 19 – The Battle of Mons Algidus

— Word of what Cinncinatus did to the Senate spread like wildfire through the streets of Rome.

This time Romans don’t fight the Latins. Instead, they have to face the dangerous Aequi tribe.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 19 – The Battle of Mons Algidus.

Last week we saw the arrival of the Twelve Tables.
Written laws so that all Romans could be tried and treated the same way.
And we also saw how all over Rome people learned those laws by heart. Among them, the oh-so-eager eight-year-old boy in our little family saga.

To give you a few more examples of what these Tables contained, lets check out  a few of these laws:

Killing an intruder in one’s own house, if it was nighttime, was OK. No punishment, not even a case. But if it was daytime, the homeowner had to get the intruder to a magistrate for trial.

If the court called a person to appear in front of a judge, and if that person was incapacitated in any way, the court would out send four soldiers, and four slaves to bring the man to the courthouse.
But if the person’s issue was an infectious disease, the date of the trial was postponed until above mentioned infection had passed, up to a period of six months.
During those six months, the other person, the accuser, had the right to go to the defendant’s house every three days, stand in front of the house of the accused, and yell in a loud voice, reminding the accuser that a trial awaited him. The purpose, of course was to embarrass the entire family by this way.

When a lawsuit began, the judge gave two options to the opposing parties:
ONE – To agree and resolve the problem without any involvement from the judge, and
TWO – To not to agree, and go the nearest forum of the court in question, on the next working day. A debate would start there. That debate usually began around sunrise, and by obligation, a judge had to resolve the case before sunset.

[…]

After a crippling march, the Roman army arrived at the height of the mountain.

They arrived at night.

Cinncinatus sent the people in Tusculum a secret message, so that the Romans who were trapped inside the beleaguered city knew, they would be free soon.

[…]

Episode 18 – The Twelve Tables

— No Plebeian citizen was allowed to marry a Patrician in Rome.

Finally, laws that can be seen, touched, and learnt by heart. And that’s exactly what illiterate people, as well as lawyers do all over Rome. They recite their brand-new laws, compiled in Twelve Tables by heart.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 18 – The Twelve Tables.

Last week we saw the installation of a new office in the Republic of Rome: the Plebeian Tribune.

I also mentioned of a Roman general, who — in my personal opinion, was a cowardly general, by the name of Gaius Marcius Coriolanus, and we will see what that man did in the year 491 BC.

But first we will see the general panorama of Rome, now that Rome defeated the Latins, and now that supposedly Rome wasn’t going to have problems, no more.

Well, if you think like that, you’re wrong. Rome’s troubles are about to begin!

As a very general picture, Rome was now surrounded by three enemies.

The Etruscans to the north, with the city of Veii as its main protagonist.

The terrible Volsci to the south, and the Aequi to the east, right where the hills begin.

[…]

In fact, everyone was learning those laws by heart.

Lawyers and magistrates, defendants and accusers, debtors and tax collectors, children and the elderly, all were busy memorizing pieces of Roman law.

The tables contained several laws, some very logical, and some somewhat strange to our day and age.

As an example, not appearing in front of a judge, or lying to a judge during a trial, deserved a death penalty.

Another law said that throwing a gun into a crowd, carried the conviction that the person who threw the gun had to pay a sheep to every injured person.

I’m going to list more laws in the next episode, but as for the historical account of these tables, here’s what Livy tells us:

Tables I, II, and III contained civil procedural law.

Tables IV, V were entitled to family and inheritance.

Tables VI, VII were entitled to obligations, in other words, legal businesses of the time, and real estate rights.

Tables VIII, IX dealt with the criminal law of the time.

Table X contained the Sacred Law, a series of rules referring to the order of the inner life of the city.

and finally, tables XI and XII, also called the Unfair Tables, dealt with several criminal and civil problems.

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